Tag Archives: Freedom of expression

More Proof Censorship Fails

We all know the Internet is Cuba is virtually non-existent. (Unless you go to one of the places set up by the US Interest Section or an international hotel.) Well, it does exist but it is so slow you will die of old age before you can download one episode of Game of Thrones.

Face it, governments such as those in Cuba do not like the free and unfettered nature of the Internet. The leaders of Cuba, China, Iran, etc are all afraid of what will happen to their nice cushy jobs if the people found out what is really going on in the world.

No matter how hard governments try to restrict their people from getting information, there are gaps in the security nets. The Chinese have learned how to use their mobile phones and virtual networks to get past the Great Firewall of China. Iranians used Twitter and SMS to communicate during the uprisings that called for free and fair elections.

And now a new twist has shown up in Cuba – thumb drives.

The Only Internet Most Cubans Know Fits in a Pocket and Moves by Bus

It’s called El Packete, and it arrives weekly in the form of thumb drives loaded with enormous digital files. Those drives make their way across the island from hand to hand, by bus, and by 1957 Chevy, their contents copied and the drive handed on.

People want entertainment and they want uncensored news. And they will get it any way possible.

Even by 1957 Chevy.

And yes, there are a few people who know how to get messages out: Yaoni Sanchez (@yoanisanchez) is probably the most famous of the Cuban bloggers — at least to the rest of the world.

Here is the movie OFFLINE mentioned in the article. It is Cubans talking about the Internet (or lack of it). The movie was smuggled out in a thumb drive.

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Filed under Censorship, Cuba, Internet Freedom

Turkey keeps sliding in press freedom actions

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been on a serious campaign to get Turkey’s press under control.

In the latest move, Erdogan is suing a news organization for espionage because it posted evidence that the state’s intelligence service haphazardly supported anti-Assad forces in Syria in 2013 and 2014. Some of the rebels receiving help later turned out to be key players in the Islamic State movement.

Turkish president Erdoğan wants editor jailed for espionage in video row

Erdogan’s administration has used not only government powers to limit and block all versions of free press and expression.

Last year the government blocked Twitter and the Internet exploded. The action came as more Turks began discussing a growing corruption scandal that reached to the presidency.

When the plug was pulled on Twitter Erdogan showed bravado that was later shut down.

“The international community can say this, can say that. I don’t care at all. Everyone will see how powerful the Republic of Turkey is,” he said.

What he saw was an uproar not only around the world but even within his own ruling party.

The Freedom House rankings for Turkey have dropped from Partly Free to Not Free.

In the past two years his government has passed new laws that expanded the government’s authority to close down websites critical of the government and increased the state’s surveillance powers.

The country holds national elections June 7. Erdogon’s ruling party, the AKP, is expected to remain in power.

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Filed under Censorship, Harassment, Turkey

Latest failure by Beijing to shut up critic

The ruling elite in Beijing really seem to think they can just snap their fingers and the rest of the world will kow-tow.

The latest episode came when the Chinese ambassador to Canada sent a letter to the House of Commons and Foreign Ministry telling the House to withdraw an invitation to Martin Lee and to butt out of Chinese internal affairs.

Lee, one of the major pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong, was invited to give testimony before the foreign affairs committee about the status of democracy in Hong Kong. (Hong Kong’s Martin Lee testifies in Parliament despite warning)

Every time a critic of Beijing with a Chinese face shows up anywhere in the world, Beijing flips out. The ruling elite keep forgetting that the status of democracy in Hong Kong is based on an international treaty. Plus, by signing on to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations’ charter, China opened itself up for people to look closely at how well they live up to those documents.

At least with Lee’s visit, they did not claim that his visit to Canada “hurts the feelings of all Chinese in the world.” I think that complaint is saved for criticisms of non-Chinese.

Beijing keeps trying to force its view of control around the world because at times it works.

Late last year Mark Kitto wrote an Op-Ed piece for the New York Times that discussed how China exercises its influence on free speech. (Caving to China’s Power.)

We are used to seeing this in Hong Kong where self-censorship by journalists and straight out orders from publishers have kept the pro-Beijing drums beating. Beijing just wants to extend that authority around the world.

Even everyday folks outside China are being manipulated by China. (People Around the World Are Voluntarily Submitting to China’s Great Firewall. Why?)

It all comes down to controlling the message. If Beijing can’t do it one way — intimidate dissidents or journalists — then do it another way by threatening the economic well-being of companies and countries around the world.

In the schoolyard, that kind of behavior is attributed to bullies. Not people you really want to hang out with.

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Filed under Censorship, China, Press Freedom

Banning news items is not something democracies do – India’s wrong move

Democracies allow a great deal of freedom. It is the freedom to report on society — warts and all — that makes democratic societies better and stronger. Unfortunately, there are too many who think democratic countries cannot survive exposure of some of the worst warts.

So the BBC put together a documentary on the brutal 2012 gang rape of 23-year-old physiotherapy student Jyoti Singh. And the resulting screams from India showed that the Indian government was more concerned with perceived attacks on the image of India than in doing anything to protect women.

The rape shocked the world. It even got through to many in India who had been willing to turn a blind eye. Thousands turned out to call for new laws to protect women and to change the way society looks at rape. (India gang rape: six men charged with murder)

Not that anything really happened in the ensuing years.

The BBC documentary — India’s Daughter — included interviews with the one member of the gang who raped Singh. His comments further outraged the world:

  • A decent girl won’t roam around at nine o’clock at night.
  • A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.
  • When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape

Rather than embrace the documentary and step up work to make life safer for women, the government decided that the film makes India look bad and banned it from the country. And then, to make sure no one outside India can see it, the government went to the British courts to get the ban extended to the entire BBC system.

In that latter effort, the government failed. The BBC aired the documentary earlier than announced. And that set the Indian government into a fit of complaints and actually launched an investigation into how the film maker was given access to the rapist in jail.

Fortunately for the future of India, some are upset with the banning action:

“[T]he reality is what the man spoke reflects the view of many men in India and why are we shying away from that? In glorifying India and (saying) we are perfect we are not confronting the issues that need to be confronted,” said businesswoman Anu Aga, a member of the chamber.

In the meantime, the film maker left India out of fear for her well being.

Documentary-maker Leslee Udwin, meanwhile, was reported by India’s NDTV channel to have decided to fly out of India due to fears she could be arrested.

The television channel also broadcast what it said was Udwin’s last interview before she left India. “I’m very frightened what’s going to happen next — I predict the whole world will point fingers at India now,” Udwin said. “It’s a tragedy — you’re shooting yourself in the foot.”

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Filed under Freedom of Information, India, International News Coverage

Freedom House: Where the attacks are

Once again Freedom House does a great job of putting things into perpective with thos nasty things called FACTS:
Democracy Is the Best Defense Against Terrorism

Just off the top of my head I can see a handful of useful articles that tie in domestic and international issues.

  • What are the conditions that lead to this conclusion? (If poverty is a major contributing factor — and in many cases it is — then maybe development aid programs and greater diplomatic involvement are a more cost-effective way to address terrorism and security. That means a closer look at the non-military international affairs budget.)
  • Why are there fewer attacks in democracies? (I would argue becuase there are fewer domestic terrorists. People have a legitimate way to fight back against the government.)
  • How do adherence to human rights and civil rights affect violence and terrorist acts? (Again, if a society offers decent treatment to its people in a fair and equitable manner, there are fewer reasons to engage in terrorism or any acts of violence against society.)
  • How are free and independent media operations important to democracy and limiting home-grown terrorism? (Access to information not slanted for poltical or governmental purposes goes a long way to easing tensions.)

I am sure there are more, but I am still groggy after a 10-hour drive back home.

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Filed under Censorship, Freedom of access, Freedom of Information, International News Coverage, Press Freedom, Story Ideas, Trade

No surprise: China builds fake sites to promote its policies. It’s just this time they got caught.

One of the nice things about freedom of press and expression is that it is easier to track down lies and the lying liars who tell those lies. (Sorry, Al Franken. Couldn’t resist using a bit of the title of your book.)

The latest comes from that bastion of efforts to control everything: China.

Seems, no one was believing the official Beijing line that the residents of Tibet are overjoyed to be under Chinese rule and have no desire for any other kind of leadership. So some one (the government in Beijing quickly came to mind for many) created dozens of fake Twitter and YouTube accounts to promote the Chinese line about Tibet.

According to a story in International Business News, the fake accounts were all identified with Western names and faces. In once case, a fake Twitter used the picture of Brazilian model Felipe Berto without his permission.

The story — YouTube Suspends Fake Tibet Propaganda Accounts After Investigation — highlights the fake accounts and how they were found out.

And, as the headline notes, the social media companies suspended the fake accounts. In addition, YouTube took down the videos that showed happy and content Tibetans posted by the fake Twitter accounts.

Alistair Currie, the press and media manager for Free Tibet, summed up the situation nicely:

“China’s emphasis on manipulation of western public opinion is a sign of how important that public opinion is.”

In the past, China and the ex-Soviet Union used “friendship” assocations to do their propaganda dirty work. The problem was that it soon became clear these groups were really nothing but fronts for those governments. With the rise of the Internet the source of comments and material is much harder to track down.

And just like the dog in the classic New Yorker cartoon, no one knows who is a party dupe.

Fortunately, organizations and media without government control are free to look into who is saying what and why.

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Filed under Censorship, China, Press Freedom

Case against licensing journalists

In the United States the First Amendment protects journalists from being “banned” by government edict — or by any type of edict for that matter.

Journalists in other countries, however, are not so lucky. The latest example of why this is a bad idea comes out of Honduras.

Seems commentator Julio Ernesto Alvarado of Globo TV has been hit with a 16-month ban on “doing journalism” by the Penal Appeals Court in Tegucigalpa.

Now, I know the Globo people. They are serious anti-government types — unless the government is the leftist Libre party. The commentators are passionate in their denunciations of the ruling party. And even sometimes go over the edge of good taste.

But that all pales in the outrage that a government agency can tell a person he/she cannot be a journalist.

Whenever governments get involved, all sorts of bad things have the potential to happen. And Mr. Alvarado is seeing the results.

The issue stems from episodes of Alvarado’s show that discussed corruption in the national university. A dean was accused of corruption by teachers in the school on the show. The dean filed charges of defamation of character against Alvarado and the teachers and lost.

Under appeal the dean won , even though the court operated under the assumption that the dean had indeed engaged in corrupt practices.

With the dean’s victory came the ban on Alvarado from doing journalism.

So we have a cowonurt deciding who can be a journalist. Not a good idea.

And we have a system where truth is not an absolute defense for libel and defamation. (As it is in the States.)

In addition to the court ruling Alvarado has been receiving threats that — according to Globo — have not been taken seriously by the government. (On this point, I have serious questions. Some of the leadership brought in under the new government take protection of journalists VERY seriously.)

What is clear, however, that free and independent journalism is threatened by any law or system that allows a government agency of any type to determine who can be a journalist. Likewise, it is a danger when a court or other government entity can ban someone from “doing journalism.” And it is a danger when any private group — such as a journalism association — has the power to determine who can “do journalism.”

The bottom line is that the way to fight bad journalism is with more (and better) journalism, not by denying anyone who wants to from entering the fray.

Read more about the Alvarado case at PEN: Honduras: PEN member barred from journalism after covering corruption in state university

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Filed under Honduras, Press Freedom